Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dawn to Dusk-Steam the Red-tailed Hawk

Go to the sidebar, Recent Posts, and view the next 5 posts as they are actually all today's posting

But in the meantime, for those of you within range, the documentary Wild New York, that I did with South African director Adam Welz, will be screening at the Madison Film Festival on November 7th.

Flight to Landing 2

Steam goes for a little more elevation.

Flapping to increase velocity when he isn't camoflaged against the trees.

More elevation still in the clear, more wingbeats.Posted by Picasa

Flight to Landing 3

Flight to Landing 4

Unless absolutely necessary to stay airborne, a hawk often does not flap while in a treeline as it would attract the eye of an observer. And the whole point of a flight like this is to escape observation.Posted by Picasa

Flight to Landing 5

Cruise obscured by foliage.

Wing flaps to increase speed through open area.Posted by Picasa

Flight to Landing 6

Wingtips slant up. Focus on perch.

Body angle increases in preparation for landing and also decreases speed. Wings move back.

Steeper angle yet.
Posted by Picasa

Creatures Dawn to Dusk-Steam the Red-tail Comes in for a Landing

Actually this photograph belongs between the next two. So imagine it in it's proper place. (Still adjusting to the the new programs. Arg! And for whatever reason I can only place three photos on each post????)

5:43PM Wings undulate. The mid-wing sinks, "finger tips up", the angle of the body becomes more acute as the legs and talons extend. Misjudging the complicated coordination in this moment and going in leaning too far back and ending up hanging by their feet swinging in the wind, is a common mistake of newly fledged eyasses. Whereas adults make it look remarkably easy.

Smooth as silk. Snick. With split second timing, knees bend, talons grip, and Steam peeks around the branch.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Kakapo

The Kakapo, the earths only flightless parrot, New Zealand. And they smell good too!
YouTube--A sweet and hilarious video from BBC 2, The Last Chance, with actor Stephan Fry

Thursday, October 08, 2009

This post started out to be the fauna seen from dawn to dusk in a single day. It's taking my current gear far too long to get it assembled. Therefore an adjustment had to be made.

Readers of long standing will remember I have to load photographs onto the blog from last to first. This post will be the segment right before sunset. My apologies.

There is hope for the future though as Friday I have an appointment to have a 10x faster internet line put in. 10x faster isn't nearly as fast as it could be but 10x faster than what I have is 10x faster.

Ah yes, back to the photograph at the top. The raptor in that tree is a Red-tail. And I'm about 90% sure that that Red-tail is Steam as opposed to Mrs. Steam but I'm open to correction.

Steam has just flown in and perched on one of his favorite spots for not only hunting but also for spotting intruders. The Steams have had a bad day when it comes to intruders and Thresherman's Park has been alive with their Keeer-r-r keeer-r-r's throughout the day. Along with hot winging Red-tails zooming directly overhead, they're usually much more discreet than that here, complete with a variety of dives into the woods.

In the meantime, young Roger Sandhill does a few flaps and a wing stretch. He truly is a big boy with perhaps a little more than the usual wing span of six to seven feet.

I've crept up a bit for a better view and Steam is now looking south with focus.

Roger does another stretch, rather dwarfing his mother. Remember how some local folks told me that if one keeps the car running that the birds will be less likely to flush away? Well, with the cranes who aren't as skittish as some of the other birds that frequent the Park, I can turn off the motor of the car as long as I leave the radio playing.

Steam checks the view to the west.

Roger and Claire have found a particularly good spot, probably a cob of corn as they are overlapping one another. Dad Jamie would have given Claire the right of way and stood back.
This is only a single V of the Canada Geese that were in the air at this time. Towards sunset they take to the air to switch foraging grounds, often from water to land or in this case they could be forming up to continue their migration.
I always love to catch birds looking at me or at each other in flight. It's perfectly sensible, of course, as for them it would be similar to us walking and talking as we stroll along. But somehow being a human and not having flight capacity, flying seems like it would be something one would really have use one's whole focus on doing.

I'd discovered how to set the tripod and camera up inside the car and had been photographing from that rather cramped and precarious position. Then I got the bright idea that perhaps the Crane family had seen me often enough that I might be able to move the whole set up outside the car, where things would be easier. Nope, they took one look and started walking with some speed in the opposite direction.

And before I knew it they had taken to their wings.
And rather impressive wings at that. Though as it is cloudy and getting late, 6:15pm, perhaps it was the time of light that they would ordinarily go to seek their roosts anyway.
Suddenly Steam screams, zooms off toward the south woods, and disappears. By the way, the turning off the motor and leaving the radio play doesn't work with the park RTs. You turn the motor off, radio or no radio and they directly depart.

I pass by the oat field just in time to watch the last turkey in the row disappear into the north woods. Almost without fail outside breeding season the turkeys roost for the night in trees. I'm still not used to the fact that they can indeed fly and do perch on branches for the night.
On several occasions I've been walking quietly in the woods, and been startled by a sudden and incredible crash of something whacking into branches overhead. It's loud! Almost enough to make you jump out of your skin. I'd startled a turkey who was taking its ease on a branch, to take to its wings.

I start to hear a Blue Jay scold and look back. The Jay has taken over the tree where Steam had previously been holding sway.
Blue Jay now takes off. I'm not sure if it was because I was looking at him or the object of his scolding, likely one of the hawks, has moved and so he must move also to feel he's doing his job.
I've lightened the photo so we can see who we're talking about here but it is getting on to dark. And I too feel the need to find someplace to "roost". I head for home.
Donegal Browne

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sandhill Cranes, Northern Harrier Immature... or Not and What Was THAT Crossing the Road?

Jamie and Roger (Claire too, but she was out of frame.) forage at the far side of the west field by the treeline.

I'd gotten out of the house late as you can see by the light. I was just trying to get the camera into position when Gaylord Hooker, one the Thresheree members, pulled up on his tractor for a discussion of the turkeys he'd seen today. Then off he went towards home. His home being just up the road a very small piece and locking the north gate behind him.

While I was attempting rather fruitlessly to adjust the camera for the low light, suddenly my phone rang. It was Gaylord.

He reported that there was a hawk eating roadkill near his place and I should come take a look. A HAWK! I hadn't seen one in days. The car was already running so as to allay any wariness on the part of the cranes but when I whipped the car around...

...and looked back there they were. The Sandhills had taken to their wings.

I grabbed the camera I'd dumped in the passenger seat and tried taking a photo without turning it on. Duh.

It works better when it's on. But by that time the family was nearly at the trees and I was nearly at the north gate...which was locked. Oh right, Gaylord locked it up for the night. Shoot!

I whip round again and head for the south gate, a much longer way to go and hit Cox then Kidder roads. My, my, look who is coming from the other direction. It's Gaylord again with an update.

When he'd pulled back out of his driveway again the hawk had gone up into the farmer's maple tree across the road.

Ah ha! THE maple tree in question, but to pretend I'm doing something "normal" I pull into Gaylord's driveway and...unfortunately I can't see the Maple tree from his yard. I barge into the bushes hoping I don't look too irregular to the hawk if he's still there. I look. I look. I look. I can't see a hawk up there. Hmmm, I look up and down the road for the kill. I don't see it. Where is it anyway?

I call Gaylord back. He says it's further to the west past the maple and on the far verge that dips in the other direction. I'm looking and suddenly a swiftly running that a FOX, zips across the road and into the shrubbery across from the road kill. No, probably not a fox. I just want to see a fox and it's probably just one of the big farm cats. I'm still talking to Gaylord and WHAT...?

There he is--BYE! Likely from the angle, he'd come out of that Maple I couldn't find him in. Sneaky bugger.

And like any good hawk who is making a break for it, he heads for the treeline. Zip, behind the tree.

And ZIP, he comes out the other side. And he's curving towards my side of the road.
YES! Got 'em. Well for a second anyway as he's off into the trees ago on my side of the road. Interesting he really wasn't doing much if any flapping during that whole flight. Wow. I search the trees but then hear scolding far away in the trees. Trees that are growing on privately owned land so I'm out of luck.
(It took me awhile to decide, but I think that the above raptor is an immature Northern Harrier. A bird that has been listed on the Birds of Special Concern List in Wisconsin. They are ground nesters and with all the pastures being turned into crop land, and the prairies decimated to 2% of their original size, Northern Harriers are having trouble.
I read that they are sometimes polygynous. At times a male will bond with two females in the same breeding season. Could that have anything to do with their decreasing numbers? Are there too few males around compared to females?
But back to our particular bird of the day--Orangy breast and belly, dark underwings, false white rump patch created by fluffed secondaries, an almost dihedral wing position, slimmer than a Red-tail. It's got to be a Harrier.
Interestingly the field that is adjacent to the Maple on the other side is in a program where it has not been used for crops for some years but rather has been left to it's own devices except for a once a year mow.
I wonder if this youngster was hatched over there. Unfortunately next year that field is scheduled for crops as per the rotation schedule of the government program. Perhaps another field in the area will be left to grass in the staggered program and they'll find it. )
But back to our story, I turn toward the roadkill, the least I can do is go and see what it is that the hawk was eating. Then whatever it was that had run across the road before, ran back the other way. Directly toward the item that the hawk had been dining on previously.

And look, it wasn't just wishful thinking. It is a FOX. A red one. A little beauty with dark black socks; likely a vixen by her size. And she's checking out the goodie too.
She noses it. I can't decide if it is a raccoon or a possum. I figure if I wait a bit there will likely be enough fur bits to be able to tell after she is finished.
Silly me.
This is a fox we're talking about here. In a few seconds she has figured out how to get it into a carrying position. It is a tough carry as it's a bit stiff. The legs stick out to one side in a board-like manner. She starts to trot back across the road yet again. Three quarters of the way across she abruptly goes up on her hind legs, adjusts the load, comes back down on all four feet again and trots off...into the bushes.
Now I'll never know what they were eating. But then again, I got to know a little bit more about the live animals. And in the end, who could really ask for more?
Donegal Browne

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jamie, Claire, and Roger the Sandhill Cranes, Red-tail Update, and Feathered Fossils

The family of Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, which comes to forage at Thresherman's Park late in the day.

I discovered earlier this week that the Cranes had been named from The Outlander series of books by one of the members of the Thresheree. From left to right- Mom is Claire. Dad is Jamie. And young Roger, their youngster from this year, is on the right.

Note that Roger still has some left over brownish immature feathers on the top of his head. And he has yet to get the red crown of a mature bird, a field mark for the species. One of the other field marks is the tufted tail.

The other day I took a hundred plus pictures of them and have been attempting to figure out exactly what they were doing. Unfortunately all that figuring meant that I wasn't doing a daily post. Sooooo...once I figure it out I'll you know to scroll down to find it. Each segment posts on the day it was started not on the day it publishes.

In the meantime we have some catching up to do...

Steam the Red-tailed Hawk has been being mobbed by the five resident Crows on a daily basis. Why in particular it is happening now as the resident Crows have yet to be joined by other over wintering Crows I don't know. Crows in a murder often throw their weight around. This is a little early in the progression of the cycle for Red-tails to get the full Crow onslaught.

News of fascinating fossils from long time contributor Robin of Illinois--
(This is the second third of a previous blog that somehow didn't publish fully.)

The discovery of five remarkable new fossils has confirmed that birds evolved from dinosaurs, Chinese scientists said last night.

Because the fossils, unearthed in north-eastern China, are older than previous discoveries of similar creatures, the find adds weight to the theory that birds descended from predatory dinosaurs.

The fossils all have feathers or feather-like structures. The clearest and most striking of the specimens can be seen to have four wings, extensive plumage and profusely feathered feet.

One of the scientists who made the discovery, Xu Xing, will reveal details of his find in Bristol at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

"These exceptional fossils provide us with evidence that has been missing until now," Xu said. "Now it all fits neatly into place and we have tied up some of the loose ends."

The finds date back to between 151m and 164m years ago, which suggest they are older than archaeopteryx, previously thought to be the oldest undisputed bird.

Xu, who is based in Beijing, said: "The fossils provide confirmation that the bird-dinosaur hypothesis is correct, and supports the idea that birds descended from theropod dinosaurs (the group of predatory dinosaurs that includes allosaurus and velociraptor)."

The fossils were found in Liaoning province. Xu told the Guardian he was shocked when he first saw the best of the specimens. "This was really unexpected. One thing that would shock you is that this is covered with feathers everywhere except the beak and the claw," he said. "It is the first feathered species known so far; the earliest known feathered species."

There have been fakes before. A creature that came to be known as archaeoraptor, with the body of the bird and the tail of a dinosaur, sent the world of palaeontology into a flutter after apparently being found in China. It was later proved a fake, not unearthed by scientists, but bought at a rock show in the US. China is an increasingly important centre for palaeontology because so much of the country's rocks remain unexplored. A sizeable contingent from China is attending the conference in Bristol, one of the largest gatherings of palaeontologists ever.

Xu said: "The first question we wanted to know was is it fake or real? We checked in detail and convinced ourselves there was no problem. We are 100% sure we are looking at a real species, not a fake one. It's one of the most important for understanding the origin of birds."

Feathers cover the arms and tail, but also the feet, suggesting that a four-winged stage may have existed in the transition to birds. The fossils will also help scientists work out the mechanics of how early birds flew. The specimens have been identified as types of Anchiornis huxleyi. The details of the find will also be announced in Nature.